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After a solid regular season, our picks in the first week of bowl season aren't faring well.
The Chicken opened at 0-2 last week and the remaining pick doesn't look good. As this is being written, San Diego State is trailing BYU 16-6, meaning the Aztecs need either a touchdown and a field goal; a touchdown and a two-point conversion; a touchdown and a missed extra kick and a safety and/or field goal; two field goals and a safety; one field goal and three safeties; or four safeties to cover.
If we had to guess, however, we would go with an SDSU field goal (16-9) followed by an SDSU touchdown (16-15) and a defensive interception of a two-point conversion attempt returned for a BYU two point conversion (18-15) followed by a long field goal by Aztec kicker Chance Marden to tie the game at the end of regulation (18-18), with the Cougars sacking SDSU QB Adam Dingwell in the end zone on the first possession of overtime for a safety to end the game. Your final score: Brigham Young 20, San Diego State 18 and an underdog (+2.5) cover.
Totally plausible. Except BYU entered the game a three-point favorite (according to the books at the Stratosphere and Wynn), with the handicappers at both Caesars and the Mirage tacking on the hook (+3.5), or, for those really looking for value on the 'Cougs, the Atlantis where the line got pounded down to two. That puts the Vegas consensus at -3, not -2.5 as listed in last week's report.
UPDATE: BYU just scored (22-6) on a 17-yeard interception return. The Justin Sorensen extra point try is good (23-6).
We retract our earlier statements.
For starters, the Aztecs only need two touchdowns and two successful extra points (23-20) for a push, assuming we go with the consensus Vegas line (-3) at kickoff. We like the push, it's our favorite outcome in gambling other than winning.
Secondly, BYU apparently is good, or at least better than SDSU in this case. As it turns out there is something to like about the Cougars other than the part about them not cutting corners.
This weekend, the Free Range Chicken and the Sports Seal have a consensus pick that is a lock: there will be college football bowl games.
Game: Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl
Time: Friday, December 21, ESPN, 7:30 p.m. (Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg)
Teams: Ball State Cardinals (9-3, 6-2 MAC) vs. University of Central Florida Knights (9-4, 7-1 C-USA)
How they got here: Both teams were led to believe that the winner would be awarded a Beef 'O' Brady's franchise.
Comment: Good news, Chicagoans: The Beef 'O' Brady's franchise for the greater metro area is available. Call 1-800-728-8878 to find out more.
The bad news is that, short of opening your own "Beef's," you will have to drive 70 miles to location #277 in Bourbonnais should you get a hankering for a Big Catch fish entree.
But should you desire a frosty Colt 45 to wash down that 2,675 mg of sodium (Big Catch Dinner, tartar sauce, curly fries), you will need to leave Kankakee County as "the sale of beer or malt liquor in any sized glass container which contains more than 20 fluid ounces and is refrigerated or cooled in any manner, and sold at other than room temperature, is hereby prohibited.(Ord. No. 98-81, Sec. 1, 09-08-98)."
In related news, the good people behind Beef's have made it remarkably difficult to figure out the nutritional information for items on their menu. It is a multi-step process. First, pull up the Nutrition Guide page on their website. Next, enter a city or zip code (Bourbonnais, 60914). Hit the "GO!" button. (GO! means nutrition guide fun times.) Do not get distracted by the resulting map. Find the "Nutritional Information" link at left under the address of your favorite Beef's and click on it. Make sure Java is enabled, however, or the following screen won't build correctly. You will be presented with some sort of meal assembler tool. Do not be intimidated. You can do this. Select your Category in the first dropdown menu. (Condiments is a fun place to start.) Pick your Item from the second dropdown. (We like "Spicy Dipping Sauce (2 ounces)".) Look for the "Add item to meal" button at lower left. Click it. Presto! The table at right (under "Nutrition Facts:") will be populated with the associated data.
To get to the next level, you need to build an entree. This will require more steps. We will leave you to it.
Pick: Ball State +7
UPDATE: Final score, BYU 23, SDSU 6. To cover, the Aztecs will need a flux capacitor. Stay tuned.
Game: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Time: Saturday, December 22, ESPN, 12:30 p.m. (Superdome, New Orleans)
Teams: East Carolina Pirates (8-4, 7-1 C-USA) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt)
How they got here: Now that the Sun Belt has two bowl tie-ins, the R+L Carriers get the second pick of the two teams, assuming there are at least two bowl-eligible Sun Belt teams. (The Sun Belt conference champion plays in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.) We don't know how the New Orleans Bowl selects the other participant, a qualifying Conference USA team, other than that it can choose an at-large team if C-USA doesn't have an adequate number of bowl-eligible squads. So, there you have it.
Comment: In the past, we have picked the Ragin' Cajuns based on little more than our affection for the little flaming red pepper in their alternate logo, but we are putting more thought into our pick this year. We are feeling the Pirates this season. The swashbuckler in East Carolina's logo looks . . . salty. Not quite Big Catch salty, but almost.
Plus, ECU's leading rusher is a guy named "Vintavious." We have long had a rule in college football bowl handicapping here at the College Football Report: never pick against a Vintavious. We're not about to start now.
Pick: East Carolina +5
Game: Little Caesars Bowl
Time: Saturday, December 22, ESPN 7:30 p.m. (Ford Field, Detroit)
Teams: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5, 4-4 Sun Belt) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6, 4-4 MAC)
How they got here: The Hilltoppers pulled another 7-5 season to end Willie Taggart's brief, but sterling, career as head coach. Taggart accepted an offer from South Florida on December 8th, leaving the Hilltoppers in an awkward situation. The 'Toppers only just joined (2009) the FBS, so expectations should still be fairly low, but Taggart did such a tremendous job lifting the program from the 0-12 debacle in '09 to winning seasons and bowl bids, the WKU administration must have felt a need to continue the momentum.
So, Todd Stewart salvaged Bobby Petrino from the coaching scrap heap.
Petrino, despite embezzling money from Arkansas to pay his football assistant and mistress, and then awkwardly covering up her involvement in an ugly motorcycle crash, has been mentioned in numerous job openings this postseason, proving that college football is about winning and not about discretion. Petrino will attract all the attention in the Little Caesars Bowl although defensive coordinator Lance Guidry will actually be calling the plays for Western Kentucky.
Central Michigan finished the season on a three-game hot streak, including a win over hapless Massachusetts to end the regular season and reach bowl eligibility.
Pick: If the Hilltoppers can block out all the outside distractions (and here we are channeling every pedestrian college football commentator in the country), we like them to cover the five-point spread, although we are inclined to believe factors like fielding a good senior quarterback are more important.
Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.